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North Kitsap School District sets Native American education goals

SUQUAMISH — The North Kitsap School District and local tribes are shifting their educational focus for the 2010-11 school year.

Representatives from the district and the Inter-Tribal Parent Education Committee, representing the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes, met Tuesday to decide on their goals for Native American education in the 2010-11 school year. The district will receive about $104,000 from the federal government to apply toward programs that help it reach those goals. The money pays the salaries of four Native American liaisons in the district, who act as intermediaries between tribal students and the district, and advise students on ways to get back on track when they veer away from their educational goals.

The district and tribes voted to focus Native American educational goals on early literacy in grades kindergarten through third, math in grades two through 12 and attendance in grades four through 12 next year.

Native American students typically score lower than their classmates on standardized math tests. Suquamish Elementary School principal Joe Davalos proposed the literacy focus as a tie-in with the math focus.

“Math is a focus for all of us,” Davalos said. “So much of the math is connected to reading. You’re going to do better at the math if you’re better at reading.”

The focuses this year for Native American students have been attendance and graduation rates. Graduation rates are typically lower among Native American students than their classmates. Attendance rates are lower among Native American students in every grade except kindergarten this year.

Low attendance rates stem from students being marked as absent when they are excused to attend cultural events. The district and parents are working to change the way such absences are recorded, for all students, not just Native Americans.

“That’s one of the side things the parent committee is going to work on,” Lena Maloney, the district’s Native American education coordinator, said. “It would benefit all kids.”

The district and tribes are also considering printing a newsletter to keep parents informed of goings-on in the Native American education program.

Although the parent committee and district only meet once a year to decide how government funds will be used, the two sides are open to helpful ideas throughout the year.

“I think it’s year-round. We’re always taking recommendations,” Kari DeCoteau, the Suquamish Tribe’s education director, said.

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